Sandpaper Gate: Real villains are not the players
Right, one week has passed, seven days reeking of controversies, smacking of conspiracies and then tears adding a bit of abstinence to the sequence of proceedings.
Three young men, three villains, three adults venting out their emotions in public. This world baying for their blood one day, sitting tightly in the corner on another; smoking them into a corner one day, wanting to hold their hand to lead them out of that very corner on another day!
Seven days have never felt so long, seven days have never done so much damage and we’ve had the King Commission and Hansie Cronje saga, we’ve had the underarm bowling, we’ve had spot-fixing!
So then, it has now passed us, those three young men have given an account of their actions, their words muffled by their tears, their voices which resonate every time they took the field gagged when they choked more than they blinked. Yes, the damage has been done, self-pride shattered. A mountain to climb, few sombre steps not even taken so far.
Not very good for the sport, not very good for the fans, not very good for the administrators. Ah, administrators, amidst this debacle, we have forgotten about them, we’ve managed to give them a pass and they have wriggled through.
When players were nailed to the ground, when players were in the eye of the storm, when families were ripped apart, the administrators stood some distance away as mute spectators.
Yes, they were mum, they have been mum, they continue to be mum, and now it is time we look towards them and ask them, are they doing their jobs? Are they running cricket like it should be run? Are they being held accountable?
First things first, James Sutherland has categorically mentioned that the sanctions imposed on Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft were not because of tampering claims, but because of an attempt to bring disrepute to the game, well yes, the rules and the grey areas, the rules peeled off by the ICC, and the many areas of concern.
There has been no dearth of sanctimonies along the way, there has been no dearth of advice, and no dearth of volatile essays, but there has been a dearth of statements released by the ICC, and thus it is safe to say that the biggest culprit is still at large.
Former Australian cricketers have spoken with a lot of moral conviction, conveniently forgetting their deeds when they played under the sun, perhaps a dour example of how the ICC has failed and given them a pass.
"This has been perhaps one of the worst periods in recent memory for consistently poor player behaviour and the global outcry in relation to the ball tampering is a clear message to cricket: enough is enough,” stated ICC CEO Dave Richardson.
Sounds eerily similar to many statements issued earlier, similar to the reactions after spot-fixing, similar to the reactions after players so conveniently shoved opponents, similar to reactions when sledging crossed the line, a line which is more a mark on the sand!
Statements come flying in; players look at them, read them, and then toss them aside. Another day resumes, more bickering waiting to happen.
Let the smokescreen remain for the time being and let us give a quick glance at the rules. Perhaps we might then be convinced that the real villains are not the players, but the ICC which has conveniently side-stepped instead of stepping in!
The ICC's Code of Conduct, the governing rubrics under which players are castigated have been floating all over the place. The ICC, which currently rates all Code of Conduct breaches as either a Level 1, 2, 3 or 4 breach, charged Smith with a Level 2 offence.
Now, the ICC acted according to these rules and handed 2-demerit points to Smith, banning him for one match. No such penalty was imposed on either Warner or Bancroft.
This is where the problem lies; the rules and the stringent ways of applying them. One match ban for an attempt to cheat and skirt the laws, unjustifiable. It led to an outcry, it led to Cricket Australia stepping in and perhaps in an exaggerated PR move, handing the players bans.
Shouldn't the ICC be pulled up, asked questions and be held accountable?
If the game does not punish players as seriously, why will the players care about the rules, why then should they be blamed? From the high pedestal, the ICC charts out rules, very often they are so high that they lose sight of what exactly is needed.
"We need to be clear on what acceptable behaviour is and what isn’t and what the appropriate sanctions are when a player breaches the code," Richardson further said. "That may also mean strengthening sanctions to make them genuine deterrents.”
Perhaps, this time, this time when the sport is at its lowest point in the recent past, when the slope has become far too slippery, when the public gaze has become relentless, the ICC will sit down to do its job.